The rise of sustainable fashion: a shift in western consumer behavior

The rise of sustainable fashion: a shift in western consumer behavior

Translated by


The fashion industry has made significant strides in improving its eco-responsibility image among consumers, who now prioritise production methods and material choices as key sustainability criteria, surpassing the importance of manufacturing locations. According to a study conducted by the Institut Français de la Mode and Première Vision, the second-hand market is becoming a preferred entry point for sustainable consumption.


Presented on July 4, the survey, conducted by IFM and Première Vision, involved a sample of 5,000 respondents representing the French, British, German, Italian, and American markets. These findings provide a valuable comparison to a similar survey conducted in 2019.

The first notable insight is the improved perception of the fashion industry’s environmental commitments. Currently, 64.3% of French respondents (+6 points in three years) believe that fashion upholds environmental criteria as rigorously as other industries. This positive sentiment extends to 67.8% of Germans (+8 points), 74.7% of Italians, and 81.5% of Britons.

“Despite the crisis and the impact of inflation, the change in the fashion industry’s image is noticeably significant,” explained Gildas Minvielle

Indeed, the study reveals that consumers currently allocate only a quarter of their clothing budget to sustainable fashion. This data should be considered alongside the flourishing second-hand market, which is considered responsible but often offers more affordable prices. French consumers now allocate an average of €148.6 to their sustainable fashion purchases, compared to €136.5 previously. In Germany, these expenses have risen from €148 to €212, and in the United States, from $171 to $230. These figures show an upward trend despite fashion sales not having returned to pre-crisis levels.

Respondents main criteria for determining a product’s eco-responsibility – IFM/PV

However, there is still a gap between consumer behaviors across various sectors. While 44.9% of French respondents purchased eco-responsible clothing last year, 68% of women bought organic food, and 63% purchased organic cosmetics. In the United Kingdom and Italy, the corresponding percentages were 42% and 54.4% respectively. 

Gone are the days when sustainable fashion was associated with shapeless garments. Across the entire panel, 9 out of 10 respondents believed that sustainable products are now considered “fashionable”. This sentiment was shared by only 8 out of 10 French respondents in 2019. In Germany, the positive opinion has increased by an impressive 13 points.

Addressing consumer information gaps is also crucial. The 2019 study highlighted that 50.4% of French non-buyers of sustainable fashion cited lack of information as the primary reason. Today, that number has decreased to 33%. In Germany and the United States, the percentage of consumers who feel well-informed has doubled, reaching 36% and 57%, respectively. Consumers now have better information about products and where to find them. The label remains the main source of information, cited by 60% to 70% of respondents depending on the country, followed by brand websites and their social media accounts.

Deconsumerism and the second-hand market

The fourth finding unveils a shift in consumer behavior and purchasing patterns. There is a growing inclination to prioritize material quality, aiming to buy less but invest in long-lasting garments. Approximately 37.7% of French consumers consider material as their primary eco-responsibility criterion, along with 46.7% of Italians and Americans who share the same sentiment.

Materials remain a key element in the sustainable perception of a garment – IFM/PV

In line with this trend, there is an increasing desire to repair or have existing garments repaired. In 2022, 64.2% of French consumers engaged in garment repair, alongside 82.4% of Italians and 74.5% of German women. This trend has not gone unnoticed by certain brands, which now offer their own repair workshops.

Lastly, the survey highlights the sustained popularity of the secondhand

This phenomenon is particularly evident among French customers. Within the respondent group, the influence of price has diminished to 68.6% (-6.2 points), while the emphasis on eco-responsibility has increased to 48% (+5 points).

‘Made in’ and traceability

The connection between proximity and sustainability is also a significant consideration for consumers. For 82.3% of French respondents, 79% of Italians, and 85% of Americans, a garment can only be deemed sustainable if it is produced domestically.

One quarter of clothing budgets are allocated towards sustainable fashion – IFM/PV

This notion is further regionalized within Europe. A majority of French (58.5%), German (69.2%), Italian (57.9%), and British (56.7%) respondents regard European textile products to be sustainable. Gildas Minvielle noted, “We are witnessing a more open-minded view of the ‘made in’ concept compared to the past.” Furthermore, this openness extends to Eastern European countries and even Euromed productions.

By contrast, in the United States, only 28% of respondents consider clothing from Central America to be responsible. In 2019, this figure stood at 53%. This decline may be attributed to trade disputes with China and the “economic patriotism” of the Trump era.

Overall, the survey revealed that improved consumer information would lead to increased purchases of sustainable products. Approximately 60% of French respondents believe this to be true, with only one-third feeling adequately informed at present. The multitude of eco-labels exacerbates the challenge. Among the 400 existing labels, only 12 were presented to the panel, exhibiting varying levels of recognition. In France, the EU Ecolabel is the most well-known (74%).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *